Holding Your Own

In the 1800s people started to show in in the Pacific Northwest, these people were Japanese. Anyone who was apart of a minority was discriminated against, including the Japanese. Flash forward to WWII, when Japanese Americans were held by American’s after the bombing of pearl harbor. Americans looked for answers or people to blame and eventually rumors circulate around that Japanese farmers had plowed arrows in Hawaii pointing towards military locations for Japan to attack. Due to the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the executive order 9066; executive order 9066 was issued only twelve days after the attack. All Americans with Japanese lineage were thought to be spies, loyal to their country. The executive order permitted the military to declare certain areas off-limits to any or all persons (Versions of America, pg. 698)

After the Executive order was put into place all Americans with any Japanese lineage had a week to get their priorities in order. They then had to gather as much as they had to carry and sell the rest. General John L. DeWitt, head of the Western Defense Command, immediately declared the entire West Coast a military zone closed to “all persons of Japanese ancestry, both alien and non-alien” (Version of America, pg. 698) Japanese and U.S. citizens rode on a train to internment camps. 110,000 Japanese Americans were sent to 10 different camps where they would stay till the end of the war.

After these 110,000 people arrived at their internment camps they were greeted with temporary homes surrounded with fencing, and not the white picket fence that all urban homes have; barbed wire surrounding their homes with guards watching every move you make. Imagine being crammed into a small home seizing all of your privacy, not just in your home but everywhere in the internment. You may work but the pay they give you is only minimum wage which was $0.25 in 1940, in 2019 that is around $4.25

The Japanese Americans started to fight, they thought that their rights as Americans were being violated. They took this matter to the supreme court with Korematsu vs. the United States in 1944. The supreme court found that “constitutionality of relocating and interning Japanese Americans as a justifiable military measure” (Versions of America, pg. 700).

In the internments, there was roughly two-thirds of native-born Japanese Americas. There was only one-third of Japanese Americans that actually had ties to Japan. This statistic shows how wrong it was to start executive order 9066. With the American government not doing this exact same thing to other enemies of war, it is easy to sympathize for the Japanese Americans that had to go through WWII in internment camps. In 1988, the United States gave every Japanese American that went through an internment camp, $20,000 for their troubles.

Just thinking about what these men and woman went through, the American Government was not right in doing this to the Japanese Americans. Imagine being a man or woman that has lived in America all your life, you have worked hard you have made a family and you are a U.S. citizen. Then your country is attacked by the people who are your ancestors, you are related to them in some way. The American government sees this relation and they tell you on short notice you have to get ready and leave because of executive order 9066 that the President has put in place. You must get your act together and grab as much as you can carry to a temporary home where you are overcrowded and watched at all times till the end of the war.

Japanese Americans constitutional rights were challenged and what it meant to be an American citizen.

Keene, Jennifer D., Cornell, Saul, and O’Donnell, Edward T. Visions of America: A History of the United States, Volume2, 3rded. 2019.

10 thoughts on “Holding Your Own

  1. The fact that the United States waited over forty years to compensate the Japanese Americans is embarrassing. We imprisoned these people for three years, and think that $20,000 compensates that lost time and freedom? I am sure that their lost wages during that time were not even covered by that. These people lost their homes, jobs, and freedom. Nothing the government could ever do will ever truly compensate for everything that was taken from them. Great post, Isaac!!

  2. I loved how you described the internment camps. It wasn’t anything like the American dream and it’s sad because two thirds of the prisoners were American. I know that we were trying to keep us safe, but we were out of line and cowardly. Those people’s lives and rights were taken from them. It’s crazy to think that we give so much crap to Germany and Hitler, but there we were doing almost the same thing with less consequences. You had a great post Isaac!

  3. Isaac your description of the internment camps is fantastic. Additionally your analysis of how much minimum wage was back then versus now shows the true value of the work they were doing and the lack of compensation they were receiving. Additionally looking at the mere fact that the United state government did this is embarrassing and uncalled for. The United States acts like a high almighty righteous power when in actuality all too often we are hurting more than helping.

  4. The fact that Japanese-Americans went to internment camps without a fuss shows truly how much they valued living in America and wanted to be recognized as part of our country. Living in a barbed in area, guarded, in a home that isn’t much more than a shack and working basically in order to get a small ration of food seems unfathomable. I mean we essentially took from them not only their rights as American citizens but their right for freedom, their lively hood, and years of mistreatment that they will never get back. I liked seeing the cost difference between then to what it would be now. It’s important for us to see how poorly they were valued as human beings just based off of ancestry.

  5. You did a great job in explaining the negative effects of executive order 9066. The treatment of Japanese Americans due to this order was unjust and you did a great job in explaining why. The internment camps were the opposite of what America stands for. I liked when you said “Imagine being a man or woman that has lived in America all your life, you have worked hard you have made a family and you are a U.S. citizen. Then your country is attacked by the people who are your ancestors, you are related to them in some way…”. Thinking of being in these citizens shoes is terrifying, its not right that they were treated as they were. Great job Isaac.

  6. Great post Isaac ! I liked how descriptive this was, how you explained the internment camps. You are very right what we did was wrong, time wasted. People were punished and didn’t deserve it and their freedom was taken away.

  7. This was another intriguing post. I liked how you shed light on how this executive order wasn’t as great as they thought it was going to be. You did a great job of explaining how these camps were a form of punishment for citizens of the United States for things that were out of their hands. The explanation of how these Japanese-American people were treated was very eye opening and you made it even more clear putting examples and really putting us in their shoes! Great post!

  8. Isn’t the hypocrisy appalling? I could understand the mistrust because of the use of spies, but I think America took it too far. It was nice that they gave them some cash for the inconvenience.

  9. I disagree that all Japanese were seen as spies, this however, does not change the fact that they were forced into camps with in humane living conditions. If you look at this objectively though you must see it from the other perspective, but I am by no means justifying it. From the presidents shoes he is faced with a 9/11 situation during wartime. American soil was attacked and many Americans died. The entire countries public opinion of the Japanese was that they were somehow responsible for the attack. If the president did nothing then the American people would see him as weak, something that is very dangerous during war time. Another good thing to take into account is the speed at which these buildings were constructed and the limited budget that they had for them. It would have taken much longer to add plumbing and many of the other amenities that we take for granted.

  10. Good post! As I was reading and you were describing the internment camps it made me think that doesn’t seem to be much different than the concentration camps in Germany. I may have a misunderstanding of history. From what I do understand, wasn’t the United States fighting against Germany to help seek justice and freedom for the Jews. Yet, they started to do the same to the Japanese?

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